By Richard Wolfenden-Brown:
Everyone involved with Connect Bude is absolutely thrilled to hear that the persuasive community effort, initiated by Dr Michael Ireland, and brought to fruition by the determined campaigning of Okerail and countless others, has achieved the historic outcome of ‘reversing Beeching’ and reinstating regular passenger rail services to Okehampton, for the first time since T.Rex were top of the charts with ‘Metal Guru’ in June 1972!
It is a triumph for community endeavour, for the environment, for democracy and for common sense. If the government is serious about reopening closed lines, then what better place to start than with a line that already exists and has regularly hosted summer Sunday services over several years?
News of the reinstatement of The Dartmoor Line is of national significance and will inspire many other cut-off communities to campaign to be connected, so that they too can benefit from the investment, employment, improved living standards and,
crucially, connectivity, that were first highlighted as reasons for expanding the rail network in the late 1800s.
All the reasons for rail are still true today, plus the added environmental benefits of taking traffic and freight off
Connect Bude was established in 2016 to campaign to reconnect Holsworthy and Bude to the National Railway Network. Supporting Okerail in their efforts to reopen the line to Okehampton has been a key target. Now this has been achieved, the group will focus its energies on encouraging its 360 members, and the wider community of around 40,000 people across the North Cornwall ‘rail desert’, to make use of the new rail services and to support any initiatives to integrate fast bus connections to Okehampton, hopefully with support from the government’s £3billion fund for buses announced this week.
A quick glance at a map of Devon and Cornwall shows quite clearly that there is a ‘gap on the map’ when it comes to rail, with no lines reaching the coast anywhere between Barnstaple in Devon and Newquay in Cornwall.
Whilst the smaller Cornish towns of St Ives (population 11,119), Liskeard (9,912), Penryn (8,266),
Looe (5,194) and Lostwithiel (2,848) are all served by rail, Bude remains out on a limb, still 30 miles from the
new rail services at Okehampton.
The only public transport provision between Bude and Exeter, where specialist healthcare and other services are provided, involves a four and a half hour, 100-mile round trip by bus. When we explained this public transport phenomenon to Scott Mann M.P’s Research Assistant, during a meeting in 2018, he was astonished.
Inspired by the build-up to the announcement today in Okehampton, Connect Bude has just submitted a bid to
the Department for Transport’s ‘Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund’. In collaboration with Bude Climate
Partnership and Bude Coastal Community Team, Connect Bude has applied for £50,000 to fund a feasibility
study into extending the line from Okehampton to Halwill, Holsworthy and eventually to Bude.
The bid has the written support of Scott Mann M.P, Geoffrey Cox QC M.P, Mel Stride M.P. plus support and financial
commitments from all tiers of local government.
Connect Bude firmly believes that the social, economic and environmental benefits that would accrue from a reinstated rail service would extend to every community along the line, between Bude and Okehampton. Those who agree can show their support by becoming members (£10) or Supporters (£Free) of Connect Bude. Visit www.connectbude.uk
We will soon be closer to the rail network once Okehampton opens, but we could be closer still. We invite all to
help us extend the line towards Bude. The more branches, the stronger the tree. Please give us a hand to help
reinstate the ‘withered arm’!